MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Maury Regional Medical Center went from having just a few people hospitalized with COVID-19 to dozens over the past month, mirroring trends seen across the country.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase,” said Maury Regional Medical Group Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris Turner. “We’re very lucky here and I think most of our healthcare communities here in Middle Tennessee have a resilient healthcare staff that has focused their efforts to take care of patients but I’m not going to lie to you. I think everyone is fatigued mentally. And there’s a lot of feeling out there that this surge probably could have been prevented if more individuals would have been vaccinated.”
Of the 43 people currently admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, two of them are vaccinated. There are 13 COVID patients in the Intensive Care Unit and five of them are on ventilators. Back on July 10th, there were seven COVID-19 patients and on June 10th there were just two.
“We’re still seeing a difference in the population now in that it’s a little bit younger population admitted into the hospital with fewer comorbidities than before,” Dr. Turner said. “We still have, you know, some of our patients in the ICU who are still elder with multiple comorbidities. But we’ve had young patients coming in the ICU requiring ventilation, and even had one death of a very young patient in the last few weeks that did not have a lot of health problems prior and was unvaccinated.”
In addition to the COVID-19 patients, Dr. Turner said the hospital was already busy treating other serious illnesses.
“For the last several months, the hospitals have been busy, I think, with illnesses that had been, you know, somewhat put aside because of fears from COVID,” said Dr. Turner. “We’ve had a lot of inpatients that have come in with advanced cancers or heart failure, or other illnesses. Now we’re trying to take care of that and COVID at the same time. And so we’re really have been at the high capacity for the last several weeks.”
He said on Tuesday there were maybe five open beds in the hospital.
“It’s not been uncommon over the last few weeks to be boarding patients in the in the emergency room,” Dr. Turner said. “We’re receiving requests for admissions from as far away as Texas and Arkansas. So it’s not just us, but certainly, we’re doing everything we can to provide for our patients and for anyone that needs our care.”
It’s also the hospital’s mission to get people vaccinated. One part of that effort has been reaching out to underserved communities with their mobile unit. They’ve used it to give our shots at a Juneteenth celebration, First Friday, public housing complexes, senior citizens, and an organization for the homeless, among others.
“We have really tried to go anywhere they want us,” said Patrick Harlan, Director of Business Development. “The thing that we have seen is the instant where it went down a lot early in mid-summer and the interest in getting the vaccine during that time frame really waned. But since we’ve had the Delta variant to show up, we have had a real uptick in people wanting to get it.”
Workers are evening pushing through the Middle Tennessee heat to keep the mobile unit up and running.
“One of the challenges, I guess, of this, this season that we have on the mobile is most of what we’re doing is outside and just the heat has been very challenging,” said Harlan. “We’ve worked hard to try to have cooling stations and keep people hydrated. But that has been a unique challenge.”
The mobile unit is responsible for 1,000 vaccinations and the hospital system has given out about 31,000.
“When things were winding down as far as numbers, on the mobile we were thinking we were going back to normal, we were going to start doing more pure outreach things,” Harlan said. “We have pivoted back to being not exclusive, but almost exclusive vaccines because that is our highest and best use at this time. And so we are, you know, we’re gonna continue on that path until we hopefully see things improve.”
Maury County has one of the highest rates of vaccinations in Tennessee. According to the state health department, 53% of people in Maury County have at least one dose of the vaccine, 47% have two doses, and their vaccine count is at about 96,000.
“I am so proud of my staff, they have worked so hard on this. We worked 116 hours last pay period, two weeks out running, so we’ve been running hard. And we have community partners that have been so good to work with churches, employers, public officials,” said Harlan.
Maury Regional also has walk-in vaccinations available on a daily basis at the Columbia vaccine clinic at 854 W. James Campbell Boulevard.